Posts tagged ‘lifestyle’


Update on Beauty Products

by marilynk

Some of you will remember back in August I wrote about giving up commercial shampoos, conditioners, facial cleansers, moisturizers, and exfoliants. I finished up (or gave away to my mom & sister) the commercial products I still had and replaced them with baking soda & water (shampoo), apple cider vinegar & water (conditioner), olive and castor oils & a hot wash cloth (facial cleanser & moisturizer), and ground adzuki beans (exfoliant). Click here for more details on the recipes I use.

I’ve been using these methods consistently now for more than two months, so I thought I’d give you an update – especially now that the weather’s nose-dived and we’re all dealing with Edmonton’s super dry air. Generally, I really like this change and I’m going to stick with it, but I think some things need some fine-tuning.

The baking soda and apple cider vinegar work well for my hair (I have pretty fine hair, but lots of it. My hair used to get fairly oily, but my scalp would be dry and itchy). I’m not getting the greasy-by-mid-afternoon look that I used to get pretty often (yay!) and my scalp is still itchy sometimes, it doesn’t seem as bad as before (also yay!). I’ve used all my usual styling products and everything gets cleaned out nicely when I wash my hair. I am finding I need to be careful to make sure I’ve really washed all of my hair, though – there’s a spot right at the crown of my head that I sometimes have to wash twice. I think it’s that the hair there wasn’t fully wet when I pour the baking soda and water on, so it just rolls off the hair and doesn’t get down to the scalp. The vinegar and water spray definitely smells like vinegar when I first spray it on, but the smell is gone even before I rinse my hair. Once it’s dry, my hair feels soft, looks nice and shiny, and doesn’t smell like anything.

The face-cleaning method is awesome. It’s really perfect for me and my love of getting every last second I can in my warm bed on winter mornings. It’s really only 2 steps at night: 1. Rub on the oil mixture & put a hot cloth over your face for a few minutes. 2. Wipe off the excess oil (and makeup, etc.) with the cloth. In the morning, I just splash my face with cold water and pat it dry. My skin feels great too. I have dry cheeks and oily T-zone, so cleansers seemed to over-dry my skin & moisturizers made me feel like my face was greasy. With this method, I don’t feel the greasyness at all, but I might up the olive oil in the mix to combat the drier air we’ve got right now. The other thing I wasn’t sure about was how well this method would clean makeup. I don’t wear tons of makeup, but I consistently wear a mineral foundation (now that I’m not using moisturizer with SPF, it’s even more important), mascara, blush, and lip stuff (usually gloss). The oils do a great job of breaking down the makeup and it comes right off on the cloth – even the mascara. And I’m not worried about getting the stuff in my eyes ’cause it’s non-toxic and it doesn’t burn or do anything harmful.

As I mentioned in the last post, I’d used adzuki bean scrubs before, so I’ll just say I continue to love it. I use the scrub on my face on days that I’m washing my hair (2-3 times a week) and my skin feels nicely polished, but not dried out. Since I found a good container for keeping the scrub in the shower, I’ve also started using it to scrub my body too – anywhere that needs a little exfoliation, like my elbows, back, and feet. It works great.
The thing I like best about making these changes is that I’m saving a ton of money. I filled the container of olive/castor oil mix at the beginning of August and it’s not empty yet. I filled the containers in my shower at the beginning of September and I just filled the baking soda again yesterday, the others won’t need to be filled for a while yet. I kinda wish I had a record of how much I spent on shampoo, conditioner, and face products last year so I could make a real comparison, but I know it’s significant. None of the products I’m using now are costly in an of themselves and they last much longer than commercial products. I’m thinking this was a good move!

I reused an existing cleanser bottle. That's an airline-safe 1.7 fl oz that's lasted more than 3 months.

The sugar containers are from IKEA, as is the cup, the spray bottle is reused from an old hair product.


Thoughts on Food

by marilynk

I think a lot about food. I like food, how it tastes, how it smells, how it looks on a plate. And I love cooking. I cook or bake for people because it is an expression of how I feel about them. I like it when people enjoy something I’ve made for them. I think about what kind of food a person will appreciate: their favourite flavours, the season, decorations that will make them laugh, anything that will make what I’ve made for them memorable and special.

I thought about food before I got sick. I was already trying to shift my food buying to more local sources and I’ve been trying to get back into synch with what is seasonal – not only in Edmonton, but the produce that I need to buy from farther away. Partly seasonality makes a difference to the cost of food – everything is cheaper when purchased in season. Partly it’s about supporting local farms – purchasing from local growers keeps more of my food dollars in my own community and circulating through the local economy. Mostly it’s about taste. Food just tastes so much better when it’s picked in it’s prime (have you ever eaten a freshly-ripe peach? I think that is the best example of what a difference seasonality makes to flavour!).

Since I got sick, I’ve been thinking even more about food. The only dietary triggers I’ve noticed are processed and packaged items, so since June I’ve made probably 80-85% of my meals from scratch and when I’ve eaten out, it’s mostly been at local restaurants that make food from scratch. Eating mostly from scratch takes more thought. I need to have an idea what I’m going to make, I need to make sure I have time to make it, and (I struggle with this one) I need to remember to take things out of the freezer in time to use them.

Needing to control what I eat and my moves to eat a more seasonal diet have led me to a new volunteer opportunity too. In August I joined the Edmonton Organic Grower’s Guild, a group that has about 3 acres at the University of Alberta farm – right in the middle of the city! Everyone I’ve met there has been lovely and although I haven’t volunteered many hours yet, I’ve really enjoyed getting into the garden. I like that I’m contributing to growing the food that I’m consuming. And nothing beats gardening for learning what foods are in season when! Tomorrow is the group’s annual harvest dinner and I’m really looking forward to meeting more of the volunteers and sampling dishes made with the ingredients we’ve all grown. If you’re interested in gardening, I really encourage you to come out to EOGG. It is a really great option, especially for people who live in apartments or aren’t able to garden on their own property.

Edmonton doesn’t have a climate that makes a 100 mile diet possible, but it is possible to choose foods that are in season and choose local over imported when that choice is available. I’ll have some recipes in the next couple days that really illustrate what I’m talking about.


Beauty Products

by marilynk

Have you ever walked down the aisle of shampoo and conditioner and been completely overwhelmed? Do you have fine hair, oily hair, dry scalp? Do you use heat stylers? What about colour? You try and answer all of these questions in order to choose the right product for you! Walk down the facial cleaners aisle and it’s the same thing all over again: oily, dry, or combination skin? acne? wrinkles? We have got the products to save your skin!

But are all those products really all that different from each other and are any of them really good for you, your skin, or your hair? What about your wallet? I find that of all the beauty products I buy, I spend the most on shampoo, conditioner, various face wash products, and moisturizer. Given my current financial situation, I decided to look for ways to reduce those costs while switching to things that are simpler formulas (it’s like with my food – the more ingredients I can’t pronounce, the less I want it on my body).

I am still finishing off the products that I was already using, but I have found my replacement products and have tried them out a few times to see how I like them. So what am I switching to? They look a lot more like cooking ingredients than beauty products, but so far I like how they work. All of the ingredients are available at the grocery store or health-food store.


  • 1 part baking soda
  • 1 part water*

Hair Clarifier:

  • 1 part apple cider vinegar
  • 1 part water*

I put a couple of tablespoons of baking soda into a small glass and bring it into the shower with me. When I’m ready to wash my hair, I hold the glass under the water, then swirl it to mix the baking soda into the water. I pour about a third of the mixture onto the crown of my head, a third along my hair line in the front and by my temples, and for the last third I tip my head forward and pour it along the hairline in back. Put the glass down & then I massage the baking soda mixture into my scalp, then rinse it out.

For the clarifier, I’ve made a half-and-half mix of the apple cider vinegar and water in a spritz bottle I had left over from a hair product I had finished off. In the shower, I give the bottle a shake then spritz my hair, keeping the mix on the ends of my hair, not on my scalp (according to online sources, the vinegar can be hard on the scalp).

*Some online resources suggest using distilled water, but that would be an added expense and Edmonton has some of the best tap water in North America, so I’m sticking with that.

Facial Cleanser:

  • 1 part castor oil (available at health-food stores)
  • 1 part olive oil


  • adzuki beans, ground fine

I’ve made a half-and-half mix of the castor oil and olive oil in a small container that used to hold face wash gel. I only clean my face with the oil in the evenings and just splash my face with cold water in the mornings. To clean my face, I pour out a nickel-size amount of the oil mixture onto my fingers and massage it into my face (the oil also breaks up makeup really well and is safe to use on eyes and eyelashes). Meanwhile, I soak a face cloth in the hottest water that will come out of my tap. Once the oil is worked in, I wring out the cloth and drape it over my face (I lie down for this part – so much easier). I lie with the cloth on my face until it is room temperature again, then wipe off any excess oil (& makeup), and rinse out the cloth.

The cleanser is actually my favourite of the new products – it’s like a mini facial every night! I also like that it forces me to take a few minutes to just lie still and quiet as part of my evening routine. It seems to help me transition from busy day to restful sleeping and that’s always a good thing!

The exfoliant isn’t really a new addition, I’ve been using adzuki beans for about a year now. I use it 1-2 times per week and it’s super simple to make. Just buy dry adzuki beans (I find mine at the local health-food store) and grind them in a spice grinder or food processor. I grind enough to fill a twist-top container and keep the container in my bathroom. When I want to exfoliate, I pour about 1.5 Tbsp of the ground beans into my hand and take it into the shower. I wet my face and drip water into the beans until there’s enough to make a paste, then just massage the paste into my skin. Using this exfoliant, my skin feels polished and smooth, but not dried out – it’s really great!


Weekend Fun & Building Community

by marilynk

I had a really good weekend health-wise and spent as much of it as possible with friends. First was my weekly visit to the City Market, with visits to my bread guy, a few vegetable stalls, and my BC fruit guy (apricots are in season right now, guys…so delicious!). My weekly trip to the market is part entertainment, part shopping, and part ritual. I love seeing everyone, catching up with the vendors that I know, meeting dogs and kids, and seeing all the beautiful piles of food. Saturday mornings between May and October are some of my favourite times.

Another reason the market is important to me is that I’m supporting local businesses and local farmers. It would be virtually impossible to eat a solely local diet in Edmonton, but part of my “More with Less” philosophy is reducing the impact my eating has on the environment and supporting the local economy over huge multi-national corporations. By connecting with these vendors, we are each contributing to our local community and making that community stronger.

That afternoon and evening I was the sober “Course Official” for a friendly game of Pub Golf. It was a hilariously good time and I’m really looking forward to round two! We played 9 holes at bars along Whyte Avenue and while it may not have done much to build the wider community, it was a great way to build our friend-based community.

Sunday was Critical Lass day! My friends Deb and Angel over at Loop Frame Love have been organizing these lovely lady (and sometimes dapper gentlemen!) rides since June 2010 and they have become an excellent addition to my summer activities. Deb did a great post about Sunday’s ride with lots of photos, so head over there to check it out. I’m going to talk more about something that really struck me as we were cycling back downtown from Alberta Avenue.

We approached downtown via 96 Street, then rode along 106 Avenue to 107 Street. This route took us right past the area where the new hockey arena is proposed. I have some serious reservations about the project – mainly about how it will be funded and what effect it will have on the livability of our downtown. My friend Zoe did a wonderful post about the north side of downtown being “the servant’s quarters” and it was definitely top of mind as we approached downtown from the north. What really struck me on Sunday was just how huge the arena complex will be and how critically important the design will be in either connecting the neighbourhoods to the rest of downtown or completely severing them from the rest of downtown.

As this development proposal moves forward (I’m not naive enough to think it will stop at this point), I think I will be most vocal about the design. I will be taking every opportunity available to me to try and ensure the design has a 360 degree perspective. If the design doesn’t include the neighbourhoods to the north, it will only serve as a divider to the community rather than any sort of catalyst for community building.


More with Less

by marilynk

What does it mean to do more with less? This is a question I’ve been pondering most of my life. It’s become even more important in the last few years, but it’s even more important while I don’t have much money coming in.

To me, more with less brings up issues of economy and value, but I don’t think that it requires deprivation. I want to pay more attention to the choices I make from where I live, to what I wear, and how I eat. I want to make considered choices and spend my money on things that I love, that will last, and that I can enjoy for many years.

I also think more with less involves a little elbow grease. Many things are cheaper if I can do or make them myself, but I also get much more enjoyment out of doing things myself. I’d much rather make a cake as a hostess gift than bring a bottle of wine – that it’s cheaper is only a by-product. Now, I’m not saying that I won’t eat out or buy a latte or a fancy dress. All of those things are important in life and I don’t want to deprive myself – or feel that I’m depriving myself. I just want to see if I can make the things I already own last longer in this disposable world.

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